SUPERIOR, Colo. (KDVR) – A report aiming to detail the timeline of events of emergency crews who responded during the natural disaster that sparked up on Dec. 31, racking up an estimated $1.02 billion in damages, was released this week by officials with the Town of Superior.
According to the After-Action Report for the Marshall Fire, the process used to create this report focused on interviews and debriefs concerning the operational response to the natural disaster, specifically, what occurred during the initial 12 to 36 hours of the fire.
“The goal of this document is to describe overarching mission and activities, consolidate lessons learned, document best practices and share recommended improvement actions,” the opening statement on the report reads.
It goes on to detail how, during the early stages of the fire, the initial pace of its spreading was not observable due to the tremendous amount of debris, dust, dirt and smoke that was being kicked up by the wind at the time.
Once crews identified that the fire was moving faster than they had expected and in an eastward direction, fire attack efforts were increased and expanded.
The report mentions that the two residents that died during the Marshall Fire had been instructed to evacuate by law enforcement.
Additionally, the report mentions that emergency crews ran into trouble while trying to contain multiple structure fires when their water supply was lost. It was not until later in the first day that crews realized that the only effective route toward suppressing or at least slowing the spread of these structure fires was to utilize a hydrant with multiple master streams.
According to the AAR, the City Manager and the Police Chief of Superior were concerned about traffic congestion that would result from the sending out of a widespread evacuation order, so they decided to space them out ordering specific areas within the city to evacuate at a time.
Other factors that seemed to play a huge role in worsened response times were poor radio and cell phone reception. The report mentions that cell towers were understandably overwhelmed at the time as attempts to communicate across the evacuation zones became more constant.
A surprising amount of supplies and equipment used by first responders during the initial attack effort came back severely damaged, and as a result, many have filed claims for reimbursement. The report mentions that these claims for equipment must be addressed and settled by the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control.
They say the goal of those who engineered the report is to make sure that any future wildfires do not have the same impact as the Marshall Fire did.